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Good as gold

May 1, 1995 12:00 AM

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Thomas Edison once said, "Results! Why, man, I've gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work."

Managers from the 34 organizations winning 1994-95 Management Plus Program awards undoubtedly have experienced some of the same frustrations as the inventor, but they also have achieved an exceptional number of positive results, as did Edison.

The program, co-sponsored by the National Assn. Printers and Lithographers (NAPL), Didde Web Press and AMERICAN PRINTER, annually tests the management mettle in hundreds of graphic arts companies. Winners of the Cold, Silver and Merit awards have demonstrated techniques and achievements that place them ahead of others of similar size and ability.

With sales up 30 percent from 1992-93 and profits soaring 123 percent, no salespeople and only five full-time and five part-time employees, Ecoprint is a success story. The sheetfed offset commercial printer in Silver Spring, MD is one of six 1994-95 Management Plus Gold award winners.

Explaining this 11-year-old company's consistent annual growth (sales topped the $1 million mark in 1994), president Roger Telschow cites three major factors. "We employ `laser beam' focus in marketing, understand the value of people and benefit from ignorance." Ignorance? "It really is a lack of preconceptions," he clarifies. "Few of us had any previous experience in printing, so we've been free to explore all options."

The company seeks customers who share its deep concern for ecology and value the opportunity to obtain printing that uses resources most efficiently, generates minimum waste and impacts the environment as little as possible.

New customers are found via referrals from existing accounts or through management-generated articles appearing in magazines, newspapers and other media. These efforts also have involved joint research with a paper company in developing a recycled paper without chlorine and creating inks containing only trace amounts of undesirable metals. Also, the firm donates 10 percent of its pre-tax profits annually to local conservation efforts.

The commitment to employees runs as deeply as the emphasis on clients. Employees actively participate in management, receive financial data regularly, share quarterly cash bonuses and enjoy the security of a policy requiring management to accept a 25 percent cut in remuneration before anyone can be laid off.

At Friesen Printers (Altoona, Manitoba), president and CEO, David Friesen reports, "We have challenged ourselves to make the ultimate difference in serving customers whose requirements primarily are for quality printed books."

The employee-owned, non-ESOP firm sells books and related print products through 15 Canadian offices stretching from Vancouver Island to the Maritime provinces, plus offices in New York City and Louisville, KY. A division of D.W. Friesen, the corporation recently embarked on its first formal quality control program, although product excellence always has been high since departments and individuals have assumed responsibility for their performance.

Team goals have been set and exceeded in numerous areas, including reducing plate remakes, increasing press impressions per hour and providing higher output in sheeting and bindery operations. A quality index effectively monitors remakes and material, resulting in impressive cost reduction when corrective measures are taken. An "On the Right Track" steering committee has provided more than 330 suggestions for improving operations and production since 1990--all have been analyzed and many implemented.

Technologically, the shop ranks at the top among Canadian plants, helping it show a healthy profit even during distressful economic times. An in-house graphic arts college, complete with instructor, trains the staff and prospective employees.

Three concepts guide the company in the environmental arena: reduce (lessen the amount of materials used, purchased or wasted; reduce or eliminate hazardous material); reuse (don't throw it away, find another use, maintain it, fix it or "waste exchange" it); recycle (the last resort--recycle what you can't reuse).

"We sense a great future," sums up the president. "Outstanding leadership combined with innovative team players, state-of-the-art technology and a flexible approach to customer needs have made us a world-class business. Individually and collectively we support each other to achieve our maximum potential."

As an in-house printing plant with 187 employees turning out more than $24 million worth of products a year, Aetna Life & Casualty Commercial Plant Business (Hartford, CT) states its mission as "providing quality-driven, responsive, cost-effective electronic and printed products and services to our company and its customers to help them achieve their business and financial objectives."

Since using the in-plant is optional, its success demands competition in every respect with other sources. "We practice consultive selling that involves us in business projects at their inception," indicates Michael Feldman, director. "We can present our services and abilities and show how they help units achieve the most effective use of their document production budget."

Established in 1963, the inplant offers a wide range of services, from electronic printing through multicolor sheet-fed offset. Also available is typesetting, desktop publishing, bindery and complete mailing and fulfillment services.

In 1993, the printer adopted a new Total Quality Management (TQM) program. It emphasizes customer focus to understand and satisfy agreed upon requirements, stresses using objective measurements to ensure customer satisfaction, and promotes employee involvement in all areas of process improvement and ways to lower costs.

A computer-controlled production monitoring system includes a voice-responsive interface, allowing corporate customers to track their work progress through the plant. Customers serve on an advisory council, and periodic client surveys ascertain the degree of satisfaction generated by the printing operation--or any incipient problem areas

Management takes TQM seriously. All employees undergo formal classroom training and workgroups utilize the process. In 1994, employees studied ways to improve processes and eight teams identified areas in which the firm could save $500,000.

Building on management methods that have merited Gold awards for two successive years, Intelligencer Printing Co. (Lancaster, PA) continues to maintain a 10 percent annual growth pattern coupled with a comparable increase in profit.

"We accomplished our second recent major expansion in 1993-94," says president William L. Beckwith, "and we continue to ride the crest of a wave." The plant and equipment are updated annually, at least to the extent of depreciable dollars, and major expansions are financed from self-generated profits and profits from investments. With modern heatset web and sheet-fed offset presses, the company's 246 employees produce quality commercial printing, advertising material, catalogs and directories for a growing customer roster.

Employee involvement in all operational phases is a key ingredient in the firm's success, Beckwith says. Departmental committees develop the procedures and methods required to improve production, and employees contribute to decisions affecting new equipment acquisitions.

Adding new equipment obviously calls for increased effort in sales and marketing. "About 80 percent of our salesforce has been developed from our own organization," the president remarks. "They have come from prepress, pressroom, estimating and customer service. Not only do they know our capabilities, they're good closers and good representatives for our company."

The marketing program uses selective advertising and direct sales follow-up. Specific segments within particular markets, preferably in recession-proof industries, become targets for aggressive sales efforts emphasizing the printer's unique abilities and extensive value-added services.

Jack Wirch, vice president, CSG administrative services for the Print Center of CUNA & Affiliates in Madison, WI believes in the following philosophy: "As an in-plant manager it's important to remember you don't have a captive audience, but rather a limited audience, and you must provide your customers with the value they expect."

The operation, part of CUNA Service Group (CSG), serves CUNA (Credit Union National Assn.) with more than $3 million annually in trade services and quick printing from a plant employing 32 people.

Strategic planning, with one- and five-year segments, combined with commitment to a TQM program, guides this successful firm. In recent TQM projects, five of the company's 12 presses were eliminated and volume consolidated on the remaining seven. New shifts were added, maintaining the customer service level while sharply reducing overhead expenses.

Overhead was trimmed further by reducing the center's raw materials inventory by 80 percent, generating stronger cash flow, lowering the risk of stockpiling obsolete materials and reducing space requirements 30 percent. Just-in-time planning maintains schedules while conserving inventory.

Frequent reviews of plans and TQM results help the inplant stay on or ahead of budget. In 1994, savings were rebated to clients based on usage.

Within plant operations, interest-based bargaining has taken the adversarial nature out of the bargaining process. Both parties sit on the same side of the table, helping each other meet both separate and mutual interests. This bargaining method also has helped control costs.

"TQM is a long, continuous road to improvement," notes vice president Wirch. "Like all positive results, this award is not the end; it's a milepost along the way affirming that we're on the right track."

Attaining and maintaining a "win-win" situation for customers, employees and the business has earned Neenah Printing (Neenah, WI) its second Gold Award in two years and third since 1983. Employees have benefited from The Excellence Process, based on a vision of personal and organizational greatness, and a new "relationship thinking approach" in sales, promoting more meaningful customer communication.

"All efforts go toward exceeding customer expectations," offers lames Lueneburg, general manager. "The employees know our goals and possess the expertise, tools, ability and freedom to achieve those goals."

To cement company-customer partnerships, the firm's periodic half-day Partners in Innovation Programs bring together key people from purchasing, marketing, product management, R&D, sales, quality control, production and logistics--from both customer companies and Neenah.

"These sessions help create customer-perceived value by regularly evaluating quality and service levels while also providing an opportunity to explore joint research and development possibilities, deepening the partnering relationships," informs Lueneburg.

Supporting the program, administrative, human resources and customer relations managers interact with employees as customers to create an atmosphere that generates innovation, process improvements and low-level decision making. "Our organization has an excellent mix of talent, managing styles and thought processes in management ranks," asserts Gerald Miller, administrative manager. "This blend provides us with sound decision making as individuals attack issues or opportunities from different perspectives."

Internal classes in communications, teamwork, effective habits and performance coaching guide managers and supervisors, impacting communication with customers as well as employees. Staff members frequently visit larger print shops to gain insight, improve decision making and profit from participation in The Peer Group, a team of printers who share structured information and operating plans.

The emphasis placed on management by all six Gold award winners can be summed up succinctly by the following quote from W. Alton Jones: "The man who gets the most satisfactory results is not always the man with the most brilliant single mind, but rather the man who can best coordinate the brains and talents of his associates."

Management Plus offers a low-cost, comprehensive, annual self-evaluation program for graphic arts organizations, which is the first step before optional participation in the awards competition. For full details, contact the NAPL Center for Continuing Education, 780 Palisade Avenue, Teaneck, NJ 07666; (800) 642-NAPL; FAX: (201) 692-1862.

* Wordsprint, Inc., Wytheville, VA

* Continental Press, Inc., St. Cloud, MN

* U.S. Press, Inc., Valdosta, GA Worth Higgins & Associates, Richmond, VA

* Dynacolor Graphics, Inc., Miami

* Branch-Smith Printing Div., Ft. Worth, TX

* Direct Graphics, Inc., Sidney, OH

* French-Bray, Inc., Glen Burnie, MD

* Independent Printing Co., Inc., De Pere, WI

* U.S. West Marketing Resources Directory Printing Div., Loveland, CO

* EU Services, Rockville, MD

* State of Tennessee Dept. of General Services/Printing Div., Nashville

1994-95 Merit Award Winners

* Home Mountain Publishing Co., Inc., Valparaiso, IN

* Lazer, Inc., Rochester, NY

* Catterton Printing, Waldorf, MD

* First Impressions Lithographic Co., Inc., Plainview, NY

* Fox Press, Inc., Windsor, CT Litho Craft, Inc., Seattle

* The Argus Press, Inc., Niles, IL

* Baum Printing Co., Philadelphia

* Flower City Printing, Inc., Rochester, NY

* Spectra Graphics, Willow Grove, PA

* The Wicklander Printing Co., Chicago

* Multi-Ad Services, Inc., Peoria, IL

* ZBR Publications Inc., Wilmington, MA

* The Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York

* United Laboratories, St. Charles, IL